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Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 – What’s new in Item and Product Information Management?

July 5th, 2011 Eric Shuss No comments

With the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, Microsoft has truly delivered on the promise to create a tier one ERP solution that will be the Oracle and SAP killer. With improvements in virtually every functional area of the system and an architecture that can scale from start-ups to multi-billion dollar enterprises, Dynamics AX 2012 is the product the market has been waiting for. As a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that was ranked as Microsoft Partner of the year in 2011, our team has been working with the new version for over a year and to say we are impressed would be an understatement. In this next series of blogs I will discuss what we have learned about the new version and where we see real opportunity for existing customers looking to the future, as well as the top reasons why new customers should select Dynamics AX as their next ERP system.

One new feature that we applaud is the entirely new Product Information Management (PIM) Module. In previous versions of Dynamics AX the management and control of new items and SKUs was done in the Inventory module. In Dynamics AX 2012 these functions and more have been separated into the new PIM module to allow for better control of the entire product lifecycle management process. Products can now go through more formal workflow and release cycles that can be extremely useful in organizations that have many departments involved in the creation of new items, BOMS and SKUs. In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, new products can be defined and released to individual companies and the Product Master data is now shared across companies. Also, an item is now always based on a product definition. This product definition level is added as a mandatory step in the item creation process, and all items are associated with a product definition and can be managed by workflow for internal processes like Engineering Change Notices and Orders. In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, items could be created without using a formalized definition process. Now items can be restricted in their use by using the new Product Release functionality. These changes mean we need to learn some new terminology, so some definitions to make this clearer are below:

New AX 2012 Term Definition
Product An item, service, or right that results from an economic activity.
Distinct product A uniquely identifiable product. It serves as a core product that does not vary and therefore no product dimensions can be associated with the definition
Product master A standard or functional product representation that is the basis for configuring product variants. The variations are configured by selecting a configuration technology, which can be either a set of predefined product dimensions or configurators in sales scenarios.
Product variant A product variant is the configuration of a product master. Based on the choice of the configuration technology, the variant can be either predefined by using the product dimensions of its master or configured by using a configurator tool.

In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the creation of new items are based on product definitions, which now allow items to be restricted in their use by using the new Product Release functionality. All items are associated with a definition and can be managed by workflow for internal processes.

The new module also includes the Product Builder module that was in its own module in AX 2009 and before. The original Product Builder is still there for this release for existing customers but has been augmented with more configuration abilities with the enhanced constraint-based configurator. There is a tool to convert the original Product Builder models to the new Product Configurator for those who are looking to maximize their investment in their current product models. The new configurator is said to have better performance and be more scalable than the previous Product Builder. I will devote a future blog to the impact of this change and our impressions.

Another great new feature is the ability to have virtually unlimited item dimensions and/or variations. This means that products can have company defined attributes to describe a product. For example, an item may come in many combinations of color, fabric and sizes, another may have different lengths, widths and depths, another product may be an electronics part with different power requirements. All of these combinations can co-exist in the same item master across companies and be priced and costed based on the various combinations. The ability to add product attributes has also been greatly enhanced and allows for extensive custom product information details without having to add fields or tables.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Product Information Management and Item Master

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Product Information Management and Item Master has unlimited item attributes and support for Item images. In this example, the Monitor has multiple variants depending on the size, color and configuration attributes e.g. a High Definition 42 inch Black monitor and a LCD 30 inch Silver monitor are variants of the base Monitor item here.

The new Product Information Management module is a great enhancement that will certainly be well received by new customers as well as customers who are upgrading. We are excited about this new release and we will continue to share what we find, and we would love to hear your impressions and questions on Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Email us at dynamics@ignify.com for more information.

Eric Shuss is the President of the ERP Division of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Top-tier Microsoft Gold Certified partner and the winner of the Microsoft Partner of the Year in 2011 and 2010 and both the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle and the Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 4 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify has employees in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Manila, Pune Bangalore, and Hyderabad.

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Optimizing your Supply Chain and Warehousing with Microsoft Dynamics AX

April 19th, 2011 Eric Shuss No comments

Last week Ignify had presented a paper at the Dynamics Academic Alliance proceeding in the Microsoft Convergence conference. This blog is a summary of the paper. Microsoft Dynamics AX presents the most powerful ERP product as validated by Gartner and other analyst firms. It provides enterprise coverage for the business but especially shines in optimization of supply chain, MRP, warehousing, and inventory management.

The traditional model of produce/ buy, stock and sell has been turned on its head. Just because you are able to make enough of an item and stock it – it doesn’t mean you are going to be able to sell it. The supply chain has to be very nimble and responsive to the shifting demand patterns. Demand is not only different by items, assortments and item categories but also can be very different by channel, geography and customer type. For example one of our customers sells to big box retailers with EDI orders as the sales channel, sells direct to consumer through its ecommerce sites and then to academia through a network of sales professionals and inside customer service team members. The big box retailers hit their peak in September and October when they stock up for the holiday season while the ecommerce site hit its peak in November and December and the schools typically buy in June and July before the schools open. While there is overlap in what each customer buyer segment buys there are differences too. So the customer has the challenge of aggregating the demand across all the different channels and customer types and combining into an overall business demand forecast and ensuring the supply chain stays in tune with the demand pattern as there are always changes due to a multitude of factors.

The Traditional Linear Supply Chain is becoming more Demand Driven. Microsoft Dynamics AX provides native functionality for a demand driven supply chain with MRP, Production planning, Purchase Planning and Vendor Portals

Figure. The Traditional Linear Supply Chain is becoming more Demand Driven. Microsoft Dynamics AX provides native functionality for a demand driven supply chain with MRP, Production planning, Purchase Planning and Vendor Portals

Microsoft Dynamics AX offers rich functionality for helping Improve Customer Service, Lower Inventory Carrying Costs, and Increase Visibility through the supply chain.:

  1. Powerful MRP and Master Planning functionality: Dynamics AX has the ability to take in a sale or demand forecast (or multiple forecasts for different geographies, customer groups, item groups/ item categories) and automatically create recommended purchase orders with purchases dates and recommended production orders for manufacturers. Master Planning automates purchasing and production planning.
  2. Safety Stock Recommendation: A tool that automatically recommends safety stock for items based on past sales order volume and desired fill rate.
  3. Vendor Portal: For vendors to be able to login and see their purchase orders and if you desire also your inventory so you can move to a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) model.
  4. Supplier collaboration tools: A services oriented architecture with the Application Integration Framework (AIF) that makes integrating with suppliers and customers straight-forward with the use of web services.
  5. Operational dashboards and Native BI: While most systems provide management dashboards – Dynamics AX provides operational dashboards and role centers that improve insight at the guts of the organization. For example out of the box role centers exist for Warehouse Managers, Accounts Payable Clerk, Controller in addition to the Executive dashboards for a CEO, CFO and other CxO roles. This helps ensure that users at all levels are empowered with the correct information to make intelligent and informed decisions. Most importantly Dynamics AX can be a single integrated system that captures all important data and provides a single version of truth for users across the organization.

Microsoft Dynamics AX provides information at all levels in the organization with operational, tactical and executive dashboards thus allowing for informed decision making across the organization

Figure. Microsoft Dynamics AX provides information at all levels in the organization with operational, tactical and executive dashboards thus allowing for informed decision making across the organization.

As an example, Ellison had seen a significant shift in its business model from a manufacturing company to a distribution business. It had also morphed from a single channel to a multi-channel business. It also needed to optimize its supply chain to be able to more tightly integrate its supply with its demand and reduce on-hand inventory with automated planned purchasing. Ellison implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 that helped it

  1. Automate the warehouse with RF using native Dynamics AX integration though AIF to the RF hardware. Dynamics AX provided the ability to do directed pick and directed put-away using the location control in Microsoft Dynamics AX
  2. Used Master planning to automate the purchasing process and reduce inventory carrying costs.
  3. Integrate natively to customers to receive orders via EDI and process ASNs thus increasing visibility to demand and lowering order processing costs

Ram Kanagala, Director – IT at Ellison susms this up well "This project is a showcase example of a client-partner relationship at the highest quality, delivering the project on time and on budget, with improved business processes and seamless information flow across systems, resulting in operational cost efficiencies and improved sales forecasts." If you need more information on optimizing your supply chain email us at dynamics@ignify.com

Eric Shuss is the President of the ERP Division of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS , CRM , and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Top-tier Microsoft Gold Certified partner ranked in the Microsoft Partner of the Year for Retail in 2010 and both the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle and the Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 4 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify has employees in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Manila, Pune and Bangalore.

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